Should I have the flyer on the left or the right?

My majacraft alpaca wheelBy Amelia

Dave asked me about Saxony-style wheels -- should the flyer be on the left side or the right side?

The upright castle wheels with the flyer in the middle cut the cake in the middle, as it were. And electric wheels remove the question entirely as there are no pedals to treadle.

All the Ashford Traditionals I've seen put the flyer on the left of the drive wheel. And, quite honestly, I never gave it much thought -- so when I got my Majacraft, I put the flyer on the left side, as shown here.

Then, after reading a Spin-of article about Watson Wheels, I decided a Martha Watson Wheel might just give my Majacraft a run for its money. I was in luck, as Mr. Watson Sr. lives a short distance north of me across the border, my girlfriend likes taking car rides over there (via ferry), and Mr. Waton had a Martha being picked up within a week -- so if I came right away, I could test drive one! Oh yeah! We went!

The Martha he had completed was lovely, in Walnut, with regular and jumbo flyers. It had the flyer on the left, just as I would have expected. So, I sat down to spin on it. My friend sat down to spin at the Marie, also a left-mounted-flyer, his Production Saxony wheel (wow! gorgeous!)

As we spun, Mr. Watson was quite a delight. He recognized quickly we knew what we were doing ... and then he said, "for you (meaning me), we should put the flyer on the other side".

What? Being the curious sort, I said, "Why?"

He responded, "see how you are twisting at the waist when you draft? with the flyer on the other side, you wouldn't. See how Kym isn't twisting, and she's drafting the other way? That's why the left-hand flyer works for her." (Or words to that effect -- I had neither camera nor voice recorder with me that day.)

Wow! A revelation! Perfect! Now, the funny thing is, I knew why I draft with my right hand in front, left behind -- two reasons: I started my spinning life with spindles, and the people and books I learned from did it that way; and very early in my spinning explorations, I pursued and learned traditional long draw -- with the fiber as traditionally held, in the left hand.

I just hadn't realized it impacted my wheel spinning that much. In fact, reflecting on the ride home, I realized I should have purchased the left-hand Drudik wheel (oh man are those lovely wheels) at conference those many years ago. Now they are $$$$ and Magnus Drudik is retired. Sigh.

But that's all right. I can purchase my Watson Martha with the flyer on the right (it'll be ready in June ... I bounce in my seat as I type that!)

Majacraft and (gulp) all its bobbinsAnd, when I got home, I switched my Majacraft to put the flyer on the right. You know, it is more comfortable. My hands are in front of me as I spin, and I'm not all twisted up in my seat. Thank you, Mr. Watson!

So Dave, and all you others considering a wheel -- how do you spin? If your left hand is in front drafting/right hand behind holding the fiber supply, then the traditional left hand flyer will work great for you. If your right hand is in front drafting/left hand is behind holding the fiber supply, then the less common right hand flyer is your more ergonomic wheel.

posted 8 May 2009 at


K2Karen said...

Amelia, consider another tweak on your Majacraft. You can loosen the wooden knob that folds the wheel, and tilt the whole top of the wheel to one side. This makes long-draw spinning very comfortable.

Amelia of Ask The Bellwether said...

@K2Karen: that's a good point, I always forget to try that. Especially as my spinning chair is pretty low, it would be interesting to see how tilting the arm over helps my long draw -- I still catch myself twisting a bit at the waist, with it upright like that. Thanks!

stimps said...

Hmm, hmm! I am going to have to ask my sweetie to watch me spin and see if I'm doing something like this! I have a Majacraft Rose, and have the flyer head over to the left a bit, but I don't really have a reason why I do it that way. I only just got used to the Rose (my prior wheel was an Ashford Kiwi that I beat into submission) so I'm sure there are lots of things I can look at changing.

In other news I got my bellclub delivery today, and am not going to be online much as I spin my brains out for the rest of the day. =) I'm so excited!

Dorothy said...

Hi Amelia, very interesting post because (1) I have a Timbertops wheel that was built for me with the flyer on the right and (2) I'm thinking of getting a Majacraft Suzie Pro or Alpaca, so I'm taking notice of any mention of them right now!

I'm ambidextrous, so I have taught myself to use the left flyer, and I do so to give my hands a change, but the right is the one that suits me best.

Loredena said...

That's fascinating, and I now have to go check my ergonomics! I am right handed, but I draft with my left hand holding the fiber supply and my right hand at the orifice. And since I have a traditional, it's a left-side flyer.

Angie said...

Thank you for the interesting and informative post! I draft with my right hand, too, so I'm going to flip my Rose's flyer to the right and see what difference I notice.

CAT said...

I'm so glad to hear of your discovery. Since I primarily use an electric spinner and spindles, I never understood why or how people would decide which side to use. Well in fact, I spin similar to you where my right hand is in front and my left in back. When I long draw, I use my left hand and I sit perpendicular to the orifice on my right side.

spinningdownunder said...

Amelia, Like you I was a spindle spinner before starting on a wheel. Other spinners look at me strangely when I say I have problems spinning on a conventional set-up - thank you for validating my spinning style! I have a left-handed charhka and am busy converting a no-name saxony wheel to suit my needs. My conventional double drive Saxony wheel has the treadle underneath the flyer, which isn't bad, and I put it at an angle of 45 degrees to how I'm sitting, but I end up going back to my spindles, because handedness is not an issue there.

Janice in GA said...

I'm a right-hand forward spinner, and I've always spun on wheels with the flyer on the left. But at Stitches South recently, I got to spin on a wheel with the flyer on the right.

I would have sworn that it probably wouldn't have made much difference, but I was WRONG. I was ASTOUNDED at how much more comfortable it was.

Not that I can afford a flyer-on-the-right wheel now. Drat.

Lindsey said...

Just curious, do you think this is a pretty general thought for any person who spins with the fiber in their left hand to look for a wheel with the maiden head on the right?

I currently spin on a Fricke. Which I purposely chose for its price, the fact that it had a delta orifice and that you spin right in the middle. (I hadn't a clue if I was really going to be able to make yarn with a spinning wheel...self taught that I am in all fibery related things...picked something that seemed the easiest.)So I haven't a clue as to what look for in the next wheel. I do want to learn to spin on a double drive, and thats as far as I've got. :)

Not that I have outgrown my wheel yet.....I just have wheel lust. Watson wheels and the Journey Wheels have really taken ahold of my 'if then' future thoughts! :)

Amelia of Ask The Bellwether said...

@Lindsey: I think the castle wheels rock, for efficient use of space and general comfort regardless of handed-ness -- so if you are enjoying your Fricke, there are plenty of double drive options in the castle style (Journey Wheel, Schacht, Jensen Tina II are three I've spun on, all lovely).

Best thing to do is to try out the wheel you want, and if a spinning marathon isn't possible, to pay attention to your body dynamics while you are spinning -- how twisted you are in your seat, the relation of your feet to your eyes (both pointing the same way, or not?)

Jody said...

I read that article too and realized I twist my body around to the left like that when I spin. So I changed my Rose flyer to the right side and it does help somewhat.

chimaeracrafts said...

Hi Amelia, I've been looking into a saxony style wheel. I have an irish tension and a scotch tension but I want a double drive. I like the Kromski Symphony because of its ratio range but I am a lefthander that also started the traditional way on drop spindles with my right hand for drafting and my left hand behind for holdling fiber. Do you have nay suggestions for getting a saxony style double drive wheel with the flyer assembly on the right? Does anyone make these? thanks, Juli